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Free Study Guide-Moby Dick by Herman Melville-Free Booknotes Summary
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The novel Moby Dickis set in mid-nineteenth century America. The story begins in Massachusetts in New Bedford and Nantucket Island, the chief centers of the American whaling industry. From there, the setting of the novel shifts to the whaling ship Pequod as it cruises around the globe. The chief settings of the novel become the vast and awesome Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.


Major Characters

Captain Ahab

The dark, brooding, one-legged captain of the ship, the Pequod, and the protagonist of the novel. His entire motivation in the book is to find and kill Moby Dick, the whale that has caused him to lose his leg.


The narrator of the novel and the only sailor to survive from the Pequod. He tells the entire story and actively participates in the drama that unfolds on Captain Ahab’s whaling ship.


A native of the Fiji islands and an expert harpooner. Despite his religion and customs, he is able to develop a bond with Ishmael. Queequeg accompanies Ishmael on the whaling voyage to the Pacific and dies when the ship sinks.

Moby Dick

A giant and elusive white whale. He serves as Captain Ahab’s antagonist in the novel. Ahab’s goal in life is to kill Moby Dick for having bitten off his leg.

Minor Characters

Father Mapple

The chaplain (in New Bedford) who gives a moving sermon based on the Biblical story of Jonah and the whale in the Whalemen’s chapel.

Peter Coffin

The innkeeper of the Spouter Inn at New Bedford.

Mrs.Hosea Hussey

The irate wife of the innkeeper at ‘Try Pots’, Nantucket. In the innkeeper’s absence, she runs the affairs of the inn efficiently.

Captain Peleg

The co-owner of the ship Pequod. He is an imposing, short- tempered, and foul-mouthed man.

The other co-owner of the ship Pequod. He is the exact opposite of Captain Peleg; he is cool in temperament, religious, and shrewd.


A quiet sailor, whom Ishmael sees for the first time in the Spouter Inn. Later, Bulkington is Ishmael’s shipmate on the whaling voyage.


The first mate to the captain on the Pequod. He is an intelligent and brave officer who lives his life by Christian principles.


The cabin boy on the Pequod. He is a young Negro who is very nervous and quiet by temperament and loses his mind when he has been abandoned in the sea for awhile.


The old Negro cook on the ship. Under Stubb’s instructions, he preaches a sermon to the sharks hovering around the dead sperm whale, tied to the ship's side.


The wicked and unjust mate on the Town-Ho. He is punished as though by divine providence when Moby Dick kills him.

Steel Kit

The popular sailor on Town-Ho who leads a mutiny on board. He secretly plans to kill Radney, the most hated mate on the Town- Ho.


The self-styled prophet on the ship, Jeroboam. He believes himself to be the incarnation of the Shaker God and influences all the crewmembers on board.


The captain of the Jeroboam, who had sighted and chased Moby Dick. Mayhew meets Ahab and tells him how the whale had killed his mate, Macey, during the chase.

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